I realized about twenty minutes into our time at the playground, surrounded by children’s laughter, that mine were the only white kids there. There was no value attached to this observation, the day was mild and sunny, not too hot, not too cool, just right for a bunch of kids to climb and scream and swing and slide. Oh yeah, there was a zip line too. The reason we were there. Maybe that’s privilege for you, not immediately assessing the racial breakdown of any situation.
My oldest spun around and around with three brand new friends, boys about his age, their faces a blur of smiles and giggles, while one just slightly older and taller pushed them on the tire swing. They took turns spinning each other so fast I had to look away before I felt dizzy with both feet firmly on the ground. Their laughter and screams of delight louder every go around. My six year old worked hard standing on tip-toes with another boy exactly his height as they struggled together to be just big enough to truly do the zip line. My baby girl, made a beeline directly for two girls, probably 7 or so. She always wants to be where the big girls are. I worried she was cramping their style as she is only three and they were clearly playing a game together, but when I tried to distract her so they could play alone they already knew her name and said it was okay, she was cute. They wanted her with them, and I sat on a wooden climbing apparatus and smiled as they adapted their game and helped her go up and down the slide for twenty minutes straight.
I looked around at the 25 or so kids and felt the oddest mix of wanting to cry and yet feeling hopeful. The kids, man. The kids are alright. They didn’t care one bit who was black and who was white. It’s the adults who are messed up. They were the same age and at the same place and within moments had learned who liked baseball or basketball. Teen Titans Go or Loud House. Nats or Orioles. The important things. They ran and played until everyone was tired and thirsty.
As I left one of the women with them complimented my daughter’s hair and mine. “Exactly the same”, she smiled and I made her laugh when I said “I just told the salon to make mine match!” and while we laughed we told one another to have a wonderful day.
Last night I watched in disbelief as men carried Tiki Torches, perhaps gotten on clearance at Walmart or Pier One, through Charlottesville, VA. They surrounded a Church. They screamed horrible words at people there to pray for peace. For love.
Things kids just know.
Denis Leary’s voice rang in my ears. “Hate is taught. You know what my three year old hates? Naps. End of story.”
Today I cried as I watched white men in khakis, white polos and MAGA hats, arms extended proudly proclaiming “Heil Trump!” I watched them wave Confederate Flags, Nazi Flags, I watched someone purposefully drive a car directly into those there to say no, White Supremacists, we don’t want that here. I watch them in their tactical gear, some in bike helmets and elbow guards, perhaps hoping there will be a roller blade race later, screaming they want their country back.
But it’s never been ours, we stole it.
I see pictures of black officers being taunted and their deaths called for, and still they stand and protect these monster’s right to free speech. A man on instagram with the username CumRefugee calls me a slut. I’m at a loss. I get a message on FB asking me to “calm down”. I reply, you are free to look away. Perhaps also, look at why you want me to calm down.
The President of the United States speaks and blames both sides. He has a literal Nazi and a White Supremacist in his staff. How much longer can we pretend this isn’t the game plan? I hate him.
The news breaks there is a fatality. Is this death the first official life lost in our new Civil War? I tell my husband if they come to Maryland I will be there, and I know he worries. But I want my kids to see me standing up for what is right.
I won’t calm down. I won’t quiet down. People are dying. There is a young man with locs wearing a yoke and chains and it takes my breath away, moments later I cannot help but laugh as I see two middle aged white guys carrying wooden shields attempt to fight and fall upon one another in a pratfall that would have made The Three Stooges proud.
I don’t have an answer, how to get to these Nazis and Klansmen, for the media can vacillate on naming them all they want, we know. How to show them a fundamental belief system they’ve been taught is faulty and is causing death. How to show them love is better.
But I won’t be quiet. And if you need me, I’ll be driving out the darkness with the light I will find at the playground.
Because kids, man, they get it.